Mom and I were walking the dogs and the little old hispanic lady across the street by the track compelled us to visit her on her shady porch because her family was out. She is 83 and lost her husband of 62 years this spring. She cried about it and went on telling us about various things in her life, often looking far into the distance with her memories while repeatedly forgetting our names and losing track of the conversation. I thought of my own grandmother down in Florence in the Veteran's home, silently comparing how well the two women of the same age were in terms of health and memory.
My neighbor never drove, so she walks to the store, although her son and other family that live with her or visit her disapprove, she said, worrying about her safety. Often her house is overrun with people and cars - she has 18 great-grandchildren. But at the moment she was alone. She said it gave her a chance to clean up the house and went on about a particularly messy room used by a grandson.
Today she was upset that she didn't have a cold drink to offer us, she said; Someone in her family was supposed to bring her some soda but they hadn't, and she was clearly disappointed or distressed. After awhile we left,having to excuse ourselves, as she would talk as long as we would sit and we were always eager to go on back to our homes.
And I went to my house across the street and contemplated if I should bring her a soda. I wanted one myself after being out in the heat, and I knew she must be sitting there wanting one, too. How terrible that I was contemplating it and not just doing it without a second thought. But here I was, thinking things like if it would upset her son who lives with her but wasn't home at the time, or if she has some medical problem that a soda would exacerbate, like the lady in Chocolat, or if I would make her feel bad by bringing it over.
But finally I went to my fridge, found I had two sodas left, and I got them both out, put one on my counter and took the other, went out my front door and across the street to give it to her. She came down to the fence to meet me. I gave her the soda and fresh tears came to her eyes.
"I was just sitting there praying to God for someone to give me a cold soda!"
I thought that was a funny prayer, and then followed that thought, "Well, why not pray to God for a cold soda?", but I just said, "Well,there you go, then," wondering if I was really the answer to a prayer for cold soda and still feeling pretty stupid about the whole thing. But her tears had taken me aback, made me uncomfortable that I did it and uncomfortable that I almost didn't.